What Is a Pharmacologist?

A pharmacologist performs research to test new medications. Read on to learn how to become a pharmacologist, including pharmacologist education and requirements. Schools offering Biology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Pharmacologist?

A pharmacologist is a type of medical scientist who specializes in testing medicine. Pharmacologists may research new medications in laboratories, consult with physicians and specialists, or evaluate pharmacological studies. Much of their research is done to develop medications that can treat rare diseases or discover cures. Once pharmacologists have completed these studies, pharmacists can then distribute medicine to the public. Find out more about pharmacologists below.

Education Ph.D. in pharmacology, MD, or PharmD
Training Residency (for MD and PharmD students), postdoctoral fellowship (optional)
License and Certification Medical license required to test on humans, optional certification from ABCP
Average Salary (as of Oct. 2019)* $99,340
Job Outlook (2018-2028)** 8% (for all medical scientists)

Sources: *PayScale.com; **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does a Pharmacologist Do?

Pharmacologists often work in laboratories researching medications. Usually, the primary goal of their research is to see how these medications work and interact with humans, from a molecular level to how a body responds in total. They can also perform research for animal medications.

These medical scientists can work for pharmaceutical companies to test new drugs the companies are developing. With lab work, they can test medications by studying tissue and cell samples. Then, they can advance to clinical trials, where they conduct research on voluntary patients. All of this research combined is used to determine appropriate dosages, side effects, benefits, and safety measures. Pharmacologists in the toxicology field research and advise drug companies on how to safely label and handle substances.

Some pharmacologists can work in non-laboratory settings, depending on their employer. For example, a pharmacologist working for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may evaluate data for new drug applications or review results for preclinical studies. Other positions can involve developing projects and overseeing corporate functions.

Pharmacologist Education

Becoming a pharmacologist starts with seeking an undergraduate degree in life sciences or a related field. Life sciences involves biology, chemistry, microbiology, physiology, and genetics, among others. A bachelor's degree in pharmaceutical sciences is also a common option. Courses in chemistry, math, biology, and physics are the usual foundational courses, but students are encouraged to take communication and writing classes as well, in order to learn how to write grants and publish their research.

Requirements may vary by employer, but pharmacologists generally need either a Ph.D. in pharmacology, a Doctor of Medicine, or a Doctor of Pharmacy in order to qualify. These degrees give students the research and clinical experience needed for future laboratory positions. MD and PharmD programs give students experience with patient care as well, and some universities offer dual MD/Ph.D. degrees to train aspiring medical scientists. While these individual degrees usually take about 4 or 5 years, a dual program can take 7-8 years.

Postdoctoral pharmacology training or fellowships are available to gain additional knowledge and experience. Depending on the program, applications may only be open to Ph.D., PharmD, or MD students, or a combination of these. The programs can last from 1-4 years. MD and PharmD students may have to complete a residency first, which will add some time.

Pharmacologist Requirements

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, pharmacologists who perform tests on humans must have a medical license, which requires the completion of medical school and a residency program.

The American Board of Clinical Pharmacology offers certification for physicians and non-physicians in the research field. The degree, license, and previous certification requirements differ, but both physicians and non-physicians must meet these qualifications:

  • Provide proof of contribution to the field of clinical pharmacology
  • Complete a postdoctoral clinical pharmacology fellowship
  • Have experience as a student and as a teacher in clinical pharmacology continuing education

Official ABCP certification also requires the passing of an exam.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  • Grand Canyon University

    Grand Canyon University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Grand Canyon University:

    • Bachelor Degrees

    Online Programs Available

  • Purdue University Global

    Purdue University Global responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Purdue University Global:

    Online Programs Available

  • The Chicago School

    The Chicago School responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at The Chicago School:

    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  • The George Washington University

    The George Washington University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at The George Washington University:

    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees

    Online Programs Available

  • Penn Foster High School

    Penn Foster High School responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Penn Foster High School:

    Online Programs Available

  • Fortis College

    Fortis College responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Fortis College:

    • Associate Programs
    • Certificates

    Campus-Based Programs Available:

    View All Locations
    • Alabama: Birmingham
    • Louisiana: Birmingham, Baton Rouge
    • New Jersey: Birmingham, Baton Rouge, Wayne
    • Tennessee: Birmingham, Baton Rouge, Wayne, Cookeville, Nashville
  • University of Pennsylvania

    Campus Locations:

    • Pennsylvania: Philadelphia
  • Vanderbilt University

    Campus Locations:

    • Tennessee: Nashville
  • Howard University

    Campus Locations:

    • Columbia (D.C.): Washington
  • Cornell University

    Campus Locations:

    • New York: Ithaca